Benjamin Rosenbaum

Comments on "Storytelling"

Aviva's going to grow up to be either a mathematician or a kabbalist. (Or both.)

Posted by David Moles at February 22, 2005 04:11 PM

(Or a demographer -- if it's only age numbers that she's so fascinated with.)

Posted by David Moles at February 22, 2005 04:15 PM

Age numbers are central, but it's pretty clear she's using them as a lattice to build, piece by piece, by induction, an entire model of arithmetic.

My theory is that she was initially too young, cognitively in the Piaget sense, to learn arithmetic deductively the way an older kid would (essentially "between any two numbers there exists a fixed interval; adding the interval to the smaller yields the larger; subtracting it from the larger yields the smaller; the intervals can be derived recursively from counting and smaller additions and subtractions").

Instead, Aviva has built up a neural net of arithmetic, narratively, by telling lots of stories of the form "when I am eight and Noah is five and Marie is seven and Goa is six and Daddy is thirty-nine and..."

The neural net initially had lots of funny holes, and didn't expand easily to varying contexts (e.g. she knew how old 3 years older than 16 was, but not necessarily how heavy three pounds heavier than 16lbs was), but now it has grown to where it more or less encompasses a dense set of single-digit addition and subtraction operations on any double-digit number...

Posted by Benjamin Rosenbaum at February 22, 2005 05:43 PM

Interesting. I think I learned addition and subtraction from Lego, but then my younger sister wasn't born till I was nearly six.

Posted by David Moles at February 23, 2005 01:03 PM

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